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January 30, 2014
Review: Intimacy
Intimacy. Pictured L-R: David Anzuelo, Laura Esterman, Keith Randolph Smith, Ella Dershowitz. Photo credit: Monique Carboni.
Intimacy. Pictured L-R: David Anzuelo, Laura Esterman, Keith Randolph Smith, Ella Dershowitz. Photo credit: Monique Carboni.

On the surface, "Intimacy" is a raunchy comedy featuring a uniquely fluid set design, a range of acting ability, and exposed genitalia. If you dig a bit deeper, you find a commentary on suburbia and Freudian theory far more entertaining than anything you’ll find in a textbook.

"Intimacy" delves into the intimate lives of three neighboring suburban families of different socio-economic classes. The stage is furnished as an interchangeable interior of each home, with a backdrop illustration of three cookie-cutter houses. The play flows from one scene to another with hardly an interruption, with focus shifting from one family’s home, or one side of the stage, to another. While the play does not inspire true empathy among audience members, its absurdity and shock value inspire laughs that grow exponentially as the play progresses.

In the first act, we are introduced to an eclectic group of troubled people, including a widower turned porn-addicted, born-again Christian, and a teenage daughter of hippies starting her career in porn. Characters reveal themselves both emotionally and physically. Many of the scenes are painful – as is the acting, occasionally – as we are reminded just how difficult coming of age can be for teenagers and their struggling parents. With multiple instances of prop-ejaculate spraying across the stage, and a fully erect penis pointing downstage, audience members are kept on their toes, wondering what lewd acts will happen next.

By the second act, the play takes a turn for the implausible. The characters overcome their personal problems by committing sexual acts with their neighbors, crossing generational and familial boundaries with ease. When her father teaches her boyfriend how to masturbate on film, Sarah doesn't question it. Young Janet happily signs up to be filmed having frottage, or non-penetrative sex, with her middle-aged neighbor, and it goes so swimmingly that the two fall in love. The tone is comically ironic, as these holier-than-thou, sexually liberated characters reinforce gender and racial stereotypes. The sex-positive Gender Studies professor cleans the toilet while lecturing her husband about double standards women are held to. Later, three characters share a demeaning outlook on Mexican workers (“they’re lazy… and play the banjo”).

While there is no shortage of sexual acts, genuine intimacy fades as the play approaches its deranged fairy tale ending. "Intimacy" provides a wacky commentary on the Freudian notion that our psychological problems are primarily derived from sexual repression. Upon committing sexual acts reminiscent of incest and the Oedipus complex, the happiness and revelations the characters achieve are absurdly profound. While sexual repression is certainly an issue in American society, perhaps the point of "Intimacy" is that breaking sexual taboos is not the key to happiness or intimacy.

Through March 8 at the Acorn Theatre.

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Written by: Melinda Tenenzapf
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